About Mark Van Streefkerk

Mark Van Streefkerk is a freelance writer and social media manager whose work has appeared in Barista Magazine, Fresh Cup Magazine, and Queerspace Magazine. When he's not writing, he's probably biking to his favorite cafe or vegan restaurant. Find out more about him at markvanstreefkerk.com.

Celebrate the neighborhood’s arts — and your seventh week of COVID-19 ‘stay home’ — with the Capitol Hill Arts District Streaming Film Festival

Photographic Center NW & CD Forum opens the festival Wednesday night

COVID-19 has taken its toll on Seattle artists and performers — Many rely on Capitol Hill’s thriving nightlife for gigs and income. With live performances and gatherings on hold, many creatives are suddenly out of work. A new streaming film festival is hoped to bring some of that work and energy into homes around Seattle and the world while raising money to help artists make ends meet.

The Capitol Hill Arts District Streaming Film Festival starts Wednesday and runs through May 3rd featuring a dozen Capitol Hill arts organizations. Facilitated by the Northwest Film Forum, the event is free to all, but purchasing sliding scale festival passes are encouraged. All proceeds will go to the COVID-19 Artists Trust Relief Fund.

Capitol Hill Arts District Streaming Festival 2020

“Given all of the circumstances around COVID-19, with artists really being displaced and out of work, and a lot of people having a difficult time with this, we thought this would be just an excellent opportunity to provide that platform for artists to showcase their work, to provide resources for them, and to connect them with engaging audiences,” said Terry Novak, chair of Capitol Hill Arts District and executive director of Photographic Center Northwest. “I’m very proud of the district and the work that we do, and we’re just happy that we have the resources and the talented team to be putting something together like this,” Continue reading

For Capitol Hill’s gyms, COVID-19 restrictions a heavy weight to bear as fitness moves online

Osiris, owner of Urban Fit Studios, has overcome the challenges of a rapidly-developing Capitol Hill, but COVID-19 lockdown might be a weight too heavy to lift. (Image: Courtesy Urban Fit Studios)

COVID-19 shutdowns have hit small businesses hard but many have quickly reinvented themselves. That kind of makeover might not be possible for all of us on “stay home” lockdown but thanks to Capitol Hill gyms finding new ways to connect while trying to stay afloat, you can still get a workout at home.

For Osiris, owner of the membership-based Urban Fit Studios at 1500 Summit, the forced closure is even more agonizing given his history of struggling to stay on the Hill. “The sad thing about this is, years ago I got bumped out of my space because of the development of Capitol Hill,” he said. “I was debt-free prior to that, and then I had to take out another loan to move it to another space. Five years later I’m almost debt-free, but now I’m faced with all these forgivable loans.”

Osiris echoes what most small, independent gym owners on the Hill are going through: It’s hard to navigate the landscape of promised aid. Continue reading

Explaining the ‘X’ in Capitol Hill’s AIDS Memorial Pathway

The artists and community collaborators behind Capitol Hill’s forthcoming AIDS Memorial Pathway have a different approach to building a memorial. For starters, the AMP, working with the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, is steering clear of a monolithic or singular representation of Seattle’s early AIDS crisis. To that end, adding more contributors to the public art installation ensures more experiences are represented. That vision was reflected last week when the AMP announced Christopher Paul Jordan, Horatio Hung-Yan Law, graphic design studio Civilization, and Storme Webber as the artists selected to contribute four permanent art installations on the plaza above Capitol Hill Station and in Cal Anderson Park.

“I think the AMP is a very unique way to remember and memorialize HIV and AIDS and its history here in Seattle,” AMP project manager Jason Plourde said. “I have been really excited by the fact that it’s not just a singular thing that’s representing a history or commemorating what happened. There are four different artists doing four unique, connected pieces. I think it makes it more interesting and will make it more impactful.”

The as-yet-unnamed centerpiece is a giant X made from speakers, a 20 foot by 20 foot structure, designed by Jordan. He points out the X is a +, or positive symbol, turned on its axis to erode the perceived binary between HIV positive and HIV negative people and symbolizing a solidarity between the two. Jordan said that “the general attitude that a lot of folks have is, ‘Well it doesn’t really affect me, I’m negative.’ There’s a respectability culture around HIV negative status that sees itself as separate from the crisis, as some people have access to healthcare and support they need.” Continue reading

The future (and current physically restricted state) of Capitol Hill and Central District movie theaters

(Image: Northwest Film Forum)

Remember going to the movies? Watching films on the big screen, the smell of popcorn, and boxes of Milk Duds is already a memory, one that will grow even more distant, according to Capitol Hill-area movie theaters.

Central Cinema is on hiatus, while the Northwest Film Forum has gone online, and has a Capitol Hill Arts District streaming festival in the works. Meanwhile on E Pine, the screen at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and the city’s annual film festival is a no-go.

“We’re shut down completely. We’re in stasis, I should say. We’re not closed closed. Everything is kind of turned off, shut down, cleaned out and unplugged, and put in mothballs as much as possible until we can go back in there and open up again,” Kevin Spitzer, co-owner of 21st and Union’s Central Cinema said. Continue reading

Solving the great Capitol Hill COVID-19 tofu shortage of 2020

Cracking the mystery of Capitol Hill’s great COVID-19-induced shortage of tofu was harder than you’d think, but in the end, one Vashon-based company offered a solution.

For starters, asking major chain stores about their tofu distribution was fruitless. QFC, Safeway, and Whole Foods managers all said they couldn’t answer questions about a tofu shortage, and offered phone numbers to their regional corporate offices, a maze of automated answering systems. Even “Trader Joe’s doesn’t talk to the media,” said one manager, giving me a Monrovia-based personal phone number for a company rep, whose mailbox was naturally full. As irksome as the runaround was, it’s expected that most grocery stores are busy keeping their shelves stocked, and answering one reporter’s questions about tofu isn’t a priority.

Information on any shortages of the ultimate plant protein was found with the people who are experts on it, vegans. Holly Iles, assistant manager at Vegan Haven, the U District vegan grocery store, revealed the issue is with distributor UNFI, United Natural Foods, scrambling to meet the demand. Continue reading

Leaders in the Capitol Hill gay community: Don’t compare COVID-19 response to the AIDS crisis

For more than 30 years, the AIDS Walk has filled Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park

With news outlets buzzing about which celebrities have tested positive for coronavirus, rumors about testing and transmission, as well as a frightening projected death toll, it might be tempting to compare COVID-19 to the initial HIV outbreak in the 1980s, but figures in Capitol Hill’s gay community say, just don’t.

Fred Swanson, Executive Director of Gay City, was unequivocal about the main difference: “With HIV no one cared. It was a joke to the president. It was affecting a community that was hated and reviled, and no one cared about. [We had to] care for ourselves. Nobody else was interested in caring for us. That’s a critical difference now where you have mobilization of local, state, and federal government officials and public spokespeople really advocating for people to implement social distancing, or get testing widely available,” Swanson said.

Continue reading

No schools, no playgrounds — How Seattle single parents are coping with COVID-19

Holly Reichmann Young’s children: Joelle, Jaima, Rhorey, and Jessamyn (Image: Mark Van Streefkerk for CHS)

With schools closed and slowly transitioning to online instruction, Seattle parents, many of whom found themselves suddenly underemployed, also have the added role of educator, among a ton of other things. The strain is all the more taxing on single parents, especially the disproportionately higher number of single mothers.

Holly Reichmann Young, single mother of four, said her life has suddenly shifted into sharper focus. “I don’t give a flying shit if my eyelashes don’t grow,” she admitted. “The silver lining is that it’s really causing me to get my life together. I just can’t come home and assume all these things have been taken care of at school. I now need to know that you’ve exercised, that you’ve had your water, that you’ve read for a half an hour. So we’re setting up schedules. I have a hand in what they’re learning. I’m able to give them tasks that allow them to do things on their own and not be so dependent on me.”

Young lives in Maple Leaf, and is one of many single mothers whose routines have been upended due to school closures.

A former long-time Georgetown resident, Sarah Palmer, director of sales and marketing at Synesso, telecommutes part time, and when she has to go to the office, she takes her seven-year-old Bella with her. “Thankfully there’s a lot of staff who have gone home, so I let her in the office, and that’s her work station while I’m there,” she said. Continue reading

Mixing meals and community, Feed The People grows in the Central District

(Image: Feed the People)

(Image: @arik.abdullah via Instagram)

Amid COVID-19 restaurant restrictions and with people mostly stuck in their homes, Feed The People has emerged in the Central District, combining food and community. The community kitchen now operates within Soulful Dishes at 18th and Yesler, owned by Jimaine Miller, “The Def Chef.” As Feed The People, Miller and a handful of local chefs are offering free meals to anyone in need.

“We just tell people to come knock on the door, and we ask them ‘How many?’ And I just make a box for them and off they go,” said chef Tarik Abdullah.

“All the food we’ve been getting has been donated from various restaurants, and people’s houses. We’ve been getting random stuff like a brisket from Woodshop BBQ. I made my own take on a pretty good sauce. I did a pulled brisket sandwich. I had a whole bunch of greens from Nurturing Roots Farms, and I made Cape Town Malala Sauce. I did stewed greens with that . . . Tomorrow I’m doing watermelon lemonade with a little bit of rosewater in it, and doing something with the beef, and then a chicken dish, and a couple veggie dishes. I’m doing parsnip soup. It’s kind of like Iron Chef, Chopped, for fun, just sitting around making dishes. We offer four dishes a day,” Abdullah said. Continue reading

Hand sanitizer, money, and hope — How to help homeless neighbors and Capitol Hill nonprofits through COVID-19

(Image: Be:Seattle)

If employed and housed people think it’s bad when they can’t buy hand sanitizer in the epicenter of COVID-19, the situation is far worse for unhoused and low-income communities.

“Certainly [houseless people are] at a higher risk because they don’t have access to clean themselves as easily. We’re not getting donations of hand sanitizer . . . but they’re definitely at a higher risk,” Kate Rubin, the new executive director for Be:Seattle, tells CHS.

Be:Seattle is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering renters and people experiencing homelessness. One of the ways they do that is through their Sidewalk Pantry, a program where volunteers hand out essential need items directly to people living outside. Donated items include deodorant, soap, menstrual products, socks, and — usually any time except now — hand sanitizer, arguably more important to people who don’t have access to water for hand washing. While Rubin said Be:Seattle is completely out of hand sanitizer, they still have some hand soap to give out. Continue reading

Celebrating 10 years in the Capitol Hill circus, The Unicorn readies its big top-sized second location

Kaileigh Wilson and Adam Heimstadt

Capitol Hill’s The Unicorn bar celebrated its 10th anniversary in January by signing another 10-year lease at its E Pike location. With a much-anticipated Unicorn White Center slated to open this December, its trademark whimsical gag is only expanding.

“I feel like bars and restaurants these days, to really be successful, you need to do something different and go against the grain a little bit, and really take chances,” founder Adam Heimstadt said. “You need to be a bit of a gambler, so to speak. I put 110% into everything we do. All the stupid details matter, all the small fine details.”

The carnival-themed Unicorn and downstairs brother bar Narwhal are known for decor as sugary sweet as the signature drink Unicorn Jizz, a mango vodka, triple sec, orange juice and sprite creation. The striped walls, salvaged and repainted antique paneling, bedazzled atm, taxidermied wildlife, and video arcade have established the bar as an Anything Goes spectacle for a younger crowd, a concept that Heimstadt and his wife Kaileigh Wilson want to turn into a destination bar in White Center. Continue reading